1-800-Get-A-800#

You’ve heard me whine like a 13 year old who can’t get tickets to Wicked that one of the greatest obstacles we have as theatre marketers is that we’d don’t have easy access to our customers.

The easiest place to get your customer’s permission to speak to him/her on a consistent basis is when they make their purchase.

Since Producers don’t control the purchase point, we can’t get the customer’s information (email, address, phone) and we can’t ask that customer if they’d like to hear from us again.  In fact, we have to purchase the right to communicate with them again through through ultra-expensive email blasts sold by the ticketing agent.  Doesn’t make sense, since many of these people are our customers in the first place, right?

Right.  But that’s the way it is, and we’re not the only industry with this problem (think Book publishers and how their products are primarily sold through Amazon.com or Barnes and Noble).

Since this problem isn’t going away anytime soon, we have two options:

1.  Take advice from a William Finn lyric and “Bitch, bitch, bitch, bitch” and get nothing accomplished.

or

2.  Stop being a Cry Baby and find alternative solutions.

Producing on Broadway is like being a contestant on a Japanese obstacle course game show.  You’re going to see giant encumberances every few feet.  Things that don’t make sense.  Things that are scary.  Things that look like they were created to make you fail.  (Watch the video below!)

What separates the Producers from the game-show-losers is whether you let those obstacles scare you into doing the same old thing over and over, or whether you look for ways around those obstacles.

Example . . .

Problem:  We can’t communicate with our customers.

Sometimes when I’m faced with problems like this, I flip it around and try and get the opposite to happen.

If we can’t communicate with our customers, then let’s find a way to get our customers communicating with us.

Here’s one easy-breezy solution:

Get a Vanity 800 # and put it on all of your materials.  Thanks to internet technology, it’s a lot easier and a lot cheaper than you think.  Check out this company which handles all of my numbers (1-877-RAD-PROM, 1-888-MY-1-TIME, 1-877-ABOYZ-411, 1-877-OFF-IS-IN, and a few more).

800 #s build consumer confidence.  They give the perception of a larger company.  And people will call you.  They’ll call for information, to give you feedback, to ask for directions (I don’t understand big companies who bury or don’t publish their 800 #s on their website, trying to avoid customer contact.  If you don’t want to talk to your customers, then that means you’re afraid to talk to them, which means you have no faith in your product).

They’ll call because they need something.  That’s when you can get what you need from them.

And as Malcom Gladwell points out in The Tipping Point, the people that call these #s are usually exactly the people that you want to talk to, because they’ve got to be pretty passionate about your product to be calling.

Will this one idea get you over the wall and to the finish line?  Maybe not.

But coming up with ideas and ways to deal with the obstacles that stand in front of us is a heck of a lot better than just staring at the wall and cursing at it.

What ideas do you have to to establish a direct line of communication with our customers so that we can rely less on third parties?  Comment away!

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Comments
  • Jay Kuo says:

    Ken,
    I heard about your blot on Broadway Bullet (great interview). I’m a producer of an Off-Broadway style musical out here in San Francisco called “Insignificant Others.” I thought I’d give your blog a read–very interesting! (I did something similar with a blog at sfmusical.com when we were launching our show, tracking down 120 days till opening. )
    On the question of getting customer info, we chose a ticketing agent that actually turns over all of that information to us. The company is called Vendini, and I get to capture all of the information about the customer each week. I then use it to turn around and send a thank you note to each person who came to the show, along with a discount code for anyone they refer and a “blurb” they can forward to their friends about the show. The program is pretty successful–people write back all the time. I don’t know what we would do without the ability to capture those all-important email addresses. Sure, folks sometimes opt out after getting a newsletter from us, but we’ve been able to grow our database slowly and steadily in the one year we’ve been open.
    I look forward to reading the rest of these posts. If you’re ever in SF, be sure to come by our show!

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